What is a Preceptor?
An essential component of the Nurse Practitioner education program is the opportunity to practice and develop appropriate clinical/practice competencies. That means a precepted clinical experience in which students work with an experienced practitioner (preceptor) who will supervise and guide them in their area of expertise as the students apply what they’ve learned in their NP program to an actual clinical setting.
You might have heard a little about the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) Board of Commissioners revising their Standards for Accreditation of Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing Programs (Standards) in 2018. These standards went into effect on January 1, 2019, and brought about some important changes for NP students regarding their precepted clinical experiences:
- Academic programs are “responsible for ensuring adequate physical resources and clinical sites.”
- Clinical sites must be “sufficient, appropriate, and available to achieve the program’s mission, goals, and expected outcomes. The program needs to meet these expectations regardless of whether the student or the program finds the clinical site.”
- Students are allowed to “play an active role in identifying a preceptor, but if a student is unable to find an appropriate preceptor, when used by the program as an extension of faculty, the program is ultimately responsible for doing so.”
How to Select a Preceptor
When you become a Nurse Practitioner student at American Sentinel University, you’ll select an appropriate agency and preceptor for your clinical experience . If you need guidance, we will help you, but you’re welcome to take this on yourself—a great way to ensure you get the location, time and setting you desire.
Here’s what we suggest to our students:
1. Explore opportunities at your workplace. If you are able to function outside of your RN role and work with a preceptor in a NP role (with someone other than your direct manager), choosing your place of employment as the clinical site might be a great option. Is there a different department that could meet your clinical requirements?
2. Check with affiliate facilities. If you work for an organization that has many locations, a sister facility could have opportunities for your precepted clinicals that your facility doesn’t.
3. Look within your greater community. What pediatrician’s offices, family practice offices, primary care clinics, health department clinics, OBGYN practices, internal medicine practices or urgent care clinics that provide primary care are in your area? Reach out to them. If you live somewhere rural, you might need to be a little flexible (e.g. willing to drive to the nearest metropolitan area near you that might offer a wider breadth of opportunities).
4. Use the American Association of Nurse Practitioners’ NP Finder. This online tool will help you find Nurse Practitioners in your area as well as practice sites. Expand your geographic range if you strike out on choices in your immediate vicinity.
5. Ask around. Your fellow students offer a wealth of information. How are they going about finding precepted clinical experiences? Have they tapped their personal connections and successfully located preceptors in their areas? Those leads might give you some ideas for your own search.
A few other tips as you search for a preceptor:
- Approach your requests professionally. If reaching out by phone initially, make sure to ask if you should contact the education coordinator or office manager first.
- Introduce yourself with a letter. Share your goals, information about your professional and clinical experience, the time-frame you’re seeking a preceptorship opportunity, and a little about why you’re interested in the organization to which you’re writing.
- Do a little research on the institution. Spend time digging into the different departments and settings that could be a fit for your clinical requirements.
- Be polite. Being a preceptor is a commitment and it’s important that you approach this request as just that: a polite request, not a demand.
The preceptor search doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does take time and effort. If you need guidance, American Sentinel can assist. To learn more about the preceptor clinical experience approval process and the online Family Practice Nurse Practitioner program, Gerontology Nurse Practitioner program, and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program, call our Nurse Practitioner Admissions Engagement Managers at 303.557.9945 or visit our website at www.americansentinel.edu
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